Sunday, April 22, 2007

Poem 22

The Dead

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.

These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder, sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.

There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night.

~Rupert Brooke

I was a freshman in high school when I first encountered the War Poets--Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Joyce Kilmer, and others. These were, as Walter de la Mare says, "none of them old, many in the heyday of their youth and promise, who besides proving themselves as soldiers in the Great War had also proved themselves poets" (Come Hither, 590). They all died, Rupert Brooke of blood poisoning on this day in 1915, Wilfred Owen in going over the top on November 4, 1918--just a week before the Armistice. They were all poets of great promise.

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